Cynthia Gabriel is a medical anthropologist, mother of three, and a doula who has attended nearly 100 births. With a PhD from the University of California at Santa Cruz and a Post-Doctorate Fellowship from the University of Michigan, Gabriel’s research focuses on stress during pregnancy among African American women. She served as Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Center for the Childbearing Year, and runs women’s and parents’ support groups. Gabriel is also the founder of Growing Together, a Life Learning Center that offers psychotherapy and life coaching services in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she resides.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
84 of 88 people found the following review helpful
hesitant to commit to natural birth? read this book!June 8 2011
I love a bargain!
- Published on Amazon.com
Where to begin?? I have one child and am expecting another in a few months. My first labor and delivery was not natural by any means. It was a very typical American hospital birth with plenty of intervention. I didn't find the experience particularly empowering at all. When I found out I was pregnant this time, I started considering the idea of a natural birth. I really didn't think I could do it. My OB said things like "just be flexible, you might change your mind" and "you don't have to be a hero." I doubted my ability to do it without drugs!
Funny that once I picked up this book, I saw Cynthia Gabriel mentioning some of these exact comments I got from my OB as a sign that one's provider was not open or supportive of natural birth. As I read the book, I became more empowered and confident that I could in fact have a natural labor and delivery. And as I was re-reading the book in my 7th month of pregnancy, I decided that I wouldn't have it any other way and set out to change providers and hospitals (at 32 weeks!). I also was able to craft a one-page birth plan by using Gabriel's anecdotes, examples, and suggestions about birth plans. I feel confident that even if I didn't switch providers, I could have the birth I want in any typical hospital.
My husband (a first-time dad) also read the book and found it helpful. He's the type who would go to a birthing class if I dragged him, but not feel comfortable asking questions. He learned a lot from this book, as did I, and it made him also feel empowered in helping and supporting me in my decision!
Love love love this book! I don't know what else I can say to express just how instrumental this book has been for me. I am due in 7 weeks and feeling ready for the challenge. That in itself is a rowsing endorsement, considering only a few weeks ago I wasn't sure I could do it. I highly encourage you to get this book if you are even considering a natural hospital birth!
496 of 551 people found the following review helpful
Extremely disappointedJan. 4 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
I had high hopes for this book after seeing all of the positive reviews, but as I read this book I went from feeling a little disappointed to being almost angry at the book by the end. I am a birth doula and I bought this book in hopes of picking up some ideas to help my clients who want/have to have hospital births and still want natural births. I didn't get that at all- and I would even go so far as to recommend that the mommas NOT read this book. I'll try to use some quotes from this book to illustrate what I didn't like.
The first thing I took issue with is the overall tone of this book. Basically it says that in order to get a natural birth in a hospital you just have to stand your ground, tell the doctors that you want a natural birth, and keep asking for "one more hour". This may work well if the staff really is pushing for interventions based on scheduling, doctor preference, etc (as does happen unfortunately), but what about situations where there really is a medical need? This book does not discuss what questions you should ask. Yes, asking for more time (if not an emergency) is good, but what about asking for alternatives, asking about risks of continuing without the intervention, risks of getting the intervention, etc? This book really gave a sense of it's 'us vs. them' in a hospital. Sometimes complications arise, and the most empowering thing the family can do is to make sure they ask the right questions, get what information they need, and make a decision that is right for them (whether or not that is the staff's recommendation) NOT just ask for more time.
I really disliked the line talking about c-sections being "the ultimate manifestation that other people are in control of birth". True, C-sections are over-used and *can* leave a woman feeling like she no longer has control. But this line implies that it's inevitable that a women has lost control as soon as she has a c-section.
The author downplays all possible complications of labor. Again, I think that most (not all) caregivers have lost the trust in women's bodies to do what is best, but sometimes complications do occur. Just pushing for a natural birth regardless of what happens is not necessarily a good idea. For instance, the author recommends that if your water breaks prior to labor beginning that you "don't look at the clock" so that you can't tell the nurses what time your water broke. And that you have to be careful because the doctors might use the words "possible life-threatening infection". Yes, there is a risk of infection after your water breaks. No, it's not a reason to start induction immediately, but this book really gives you the sense that there are no risks.
The author talks about pushing in labor and how "some women push for a few moments, others for twelve hours." Pushing for 12 hours? Really?
The author describes internal fetal monitoring as "using an electrode that is literally screwed into the baby's scalp". The electrode goes a couple millimeters into the skin on the baby's head. Important for the woman to know, but not nearly as bad as the author suggests.
Talking about risks of epidurals: that they can cause "intense headaches that can last for days or even weeks (these are relatively common)" These headaches occur about 1% of the time, and are less likely with epidurals than spinal- not exactly "common". Again- I'm not saying moms don't need to know the risks and this low risk may be enough that she doesn't want an epidural, but phrasing it the way the author did is rather misleading.
The only reason this book got 2 stars instead of 1 is the last chapter- it goes over each of the interventions and strategies (besides just asking for more time) to avoid them. It's actually pretty decent.
I was really disappointed with this book and I don't think it's enough to prepare a mom for a natural hospital birth. Maybe other people got a different sense than I did, but I really feel like this book leaves you feeling that you are against the staff and that they are just there to push you into things you don't want.
38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Best chance to have exactly what the title describes - read this book!Dec 13 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
As an L&D nurse, turned doula, turned CNM-to-be, I was skeptical about this book to say the least. I've worked in some of the most medicalized environments you can find in the childbirth world, and I know first-hand all the tricks the hospital staff will use to accomplish their goals while potentially robbing the mother of her own. The terms "natural", "hospital", and "childbirth" don't belong in the same sentence with what I've seen in my experiences over the past 8 years. I'm not sure what I expected this book to be, but I'll say I was so very pleasantly surprised. As I begin my midwifery training, I'll say for full disclosure's sake, I want to work as far away from a hospital (theoretically, not physically) as I can. However, this book is a great tool for women who do still desire to give birth in a hospital but without unnecessary medical interventions. Granted, once you set foot in a hospital, there is a decent risk that things might be done to you that you don't want, but this book gives you specific things to do and say to try to avoid them. It gives the proper level of education needed in order to be prepared for the journey that lies ahead in natural childbirth, while not talking over the head of someone who is most likely not medically-trained or well-versed in medical lingo. Procedures and medications are defined and explained simply but thoroughly, along with reasons they might be necessary and times when they clearly are not. I am the first to recommend mothers look into their options of birthing in an out-of-hospital birth center or at home, but for women who continue to desire a hospital birth, this is definitely the book for you.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Natural Hospital BirthOct. 16 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
Cynthia Gabriel's Natural Hospital Birth has made it to the top of my if-you-only-read-one-book-on-childbirth...list. As a doula, I have been encouraged to include one book in my bag that will prove helpful when I attend births. For me, this is it. Whether I'm attending a home birth or a hospital birth, this resource will prove indispensable.
As a PhD in medical anthropology, professor, researcher, doula, and mother, Gabriel is uniquely qualified to write on the subject. Though highly educated, the author writes in a way that is accessible to all readers.
NHB is divided into three parts: Preparing for Your Baby's Birth; Giving Birth; and the last section, Pulling it All Together, which includes only one chapter, Birth Your Way.
Gabriel says, "Your feelings about safety are the single most important factor in how your baby's birth will unfold." She devotes an entire chapter to the topic. And in reality, the whole book serves the purpose of dispelling fear. Readers are taught what occurs in each stage of labor and childbirth. They also learn how the support team can best help the laboring mom.
Too often hospital staff are not taught the natural options for pain relief and common concerns such as encouraging the baby to change positions should he or she be facing "the wrong direction." It is important for moms, dads, and others to learn these options and, when appropriate, discuss them with their midwife or doctor before labor begins.
Gabriel does not recommend being confrontational. After all, the medical team is there to ensure the safety of mother and baby. However, there are options to those measures commonly used in hospital births, and it is up to expectant mothers to educate themselves and choose what is best for them. As Gabriel says, it's possible to have "the best of both worlds."
In my opinion, who should read this book? Expectant parents. Members of their support team. Those who plan to have children in the future. Midwives. Nurses. Doctors. Even those who are simply interested in the topic.
This is definitely a five out of five.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Cannot say enough good about this book...Sept. 24 2011
- Published on Amazon.com
I'm a first time mom as of two weeks ago. I didn't know much about childbirth before getting pregnant. Many of our friends gave us books on pregnancy and childbirth. I didn't want to fork out a lot of money on purchasing books, but this is the one book I chose to purchase...and I'm so incredibly thankful I did because it's the only book I kept coming back to!!! It was, by far, the most informative and empowering book as my husband and I prepared for birth. The desire of my heart was to have a natural childbirth in the hospital, but I was fearful that I wouldn't be able to do it or would be talked into things I didn't want once getting to the hospital. After reading, underlining, and re-reading Cynthia's book, I felt so empowered that I could make informed decisions throughout the childbirth process given all of the knowledge I had now gained. Her book lays out what to expect in the different stages of labor/delivery as well as realistic scenarios that may arise and varying means of dealing with each situation. My husband (who probably knew even less than me about childbirth) read and underlined sections as well and was prepared to be an incredible support and encouragement once I went into labor. I cannot say enough good things about this book. Once I went into early labor, I was re-reading sections of the book between contractions. And by the time we got to the hospital, we were well on our way to a successful natural birth in the hospital...a truly incredible experience! Thank you, Cynthia, for such a comprehensive and empowering book! I will recommend this to any of my friends who desire a natural birth.